Ted Morgan steps down from stepping off the July 4th parade

In this 2008 photo, Fred "Ted" Morgan prepared to kick off the Edgartown parade. — File photo by Ralph Stewart

For several years now, former longtime Edgartown selectman, World War II veteran, and parade organizer extraordinaire Fred B. “Ted” Morgan Jr. has tried in vain to ease himself out of his role as organizer of Edgartown’s beloved July 4th parade. The town pretty much ignored him because it was unclear that anyone else could devote as much energy and apply as much knowledge to the formidable task as Mr. Morgan could, even at age 90.

This year, though, his gentle advocacy for retirement turned into a flat declaration.

“This is my last year, after 43 years,” Mr. Morgan told selectmen at their Monday meeting. “My memory is failing me, and that’s not a good thing when you’re trying to organize things. I’ve enjoyed doing it. When you’re walking the streets of Edgartown, and you see the crowd of people on the sidewalk, every year there seems to be more and more, you see them enjoying it. That’s the key.”

With that, the people packed into the town hall meeting room that bears his name spontaneously broke into a standing ovation for Mr. Morgan.

“You can set your watch,” selectman Art Smadbeck said in testament to Mr. Morgan’s organizing skills. “When that parade starts, it’s 5 pm.”

In a follow-up telephone conversation with The Times, Mr. Morgan, a member of the 82nd Airborne’s 505th parachute infantry regiment and a veteran of combat jumps in Sicily, Holland, the Battle of the Bulge, and Normandy, said it would be up to his replacement to head up the parade. Ever modest, he said, “I’ll march with the veterans as long as I’m able.”

Stepping up to the task is Dukes County Superior Court clerk Joe Sollitto of Chilmark, who will help with this year’s parade, and will assume the role of chief organizer next year.

“Nobody can take Ted’s place,” Mr. Sollitto said. “It is Ted’s parade.”

Mr. Sollitto is certainly familiar with the event. He has participated annually with the Martha’s Vineyard Boys & Girls Club, and American Legion Post 186.

“I’ve had the privilege of being in the parade since 1972,” Mr. Sollitto said. “We’re going to continue the tradition.”

Hangar hang ups

Also at Monday’s meeting, Bob Stone, chairman of the Katama Airport Commission, forcefully expressed his frustration about legal wrangling over construction of a new hangar at the airport.

One year ago, state lawmakers passed special legislation that cleared the way for construction of a new hangar to replace the one built nearly 70 years ago. Before and since then the town negotiated with the Nature Conservancy, which has partial authority over the land as part of a conservation restriction.

The commissioners criticized Nature Conservancy executives, charging they have dragged their feet in granting approval for operational procedures, including construction of a new hangar.

“We’ve got a hangar out there,” Mr. Stone said, “the thing is an embarrassment to the town, and is about to fall down. Those people (the Nature Conservancy) have been unreasonable.”

Jane Varkonda, the town’s conservation agent, said town officials have been frustrated, but expect a final agreement with the Nature Conservancy in a few weeks.

“The conservation restriction is a very complicated document,” Ms. Varkonda said. “With the exception of one or two items, I think we’re there.”

Mr. Stone said years of delays have put the cost of the project over budget. “Eight years ago, when we thought we were ready to build the thing, we had enough money,” he said. “Now we don’t.”

The airport commission has $250,000 in Community Preservation Act funds for the project, and an additional $50,000 appropriated by taxpayers. Selectmen discussed returning to the Community Preservation Committee for more money, or using unspent funds from other projects to complete funding for the new hangar.

Parking problems

Selectmen also heard complaints about Vineyard Valet, which operates a valet parking service from spots in front of The Atlantic on Main Street, and Chesca’s on North Water Street in Edgartown.

Town administrator Pam Dolby said the service, which is in its third year of operation, disrupted traffic this week when valet attendants advertised the service with hand-held signs, causing motorists to stop in traffic to ask questions about the service.

Howard Powers, who lives near the valet parking lot on North Summer Street, told selectmen that lighting, noise, and traffic have changed the nature of the neighborhood. “When I moved there, it was a pretty sleepy parking lot,” he said. “I hope some thought is given to the neighbors. I don’t know if this is a permitted use. It just kind of took off.”

Selectmen approved the business in 2010, and approved a second valet drop-off location in 2011. Chairman Michael Donaroma noted that the service has been well received by local businesses and patrons of downtown restaurants. But selectmen said changes in the valet operation now merit a hearing before the zoning board of appeals (ZBA).

“I don’t think there’s any question they have to go before the ZBA,” selectman Margaret Serpa said. “It has drastically changed, it’s commercialized.”

Selectmen agreed to arrange a meeting with the company owner and the town’s zoning inspector to discuss the issue.